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Famous poet still celebrated

Christmas is a big day, but bigger one comes a month later for Michael McLetchie.

Jan. 25th marks the 1759 birth of Robbie Burns, an event enthusiastically celebrated by the Innisfail-area Scot and his wife Marion.

Scotland’s national poet remains an inspiration to Scots worldwide and has relevance today, says McLetchie.

“He’s known as a drinker and a womanizer, but he’s just like the mouse in so many ways,” Michael says, referring to Burns’ poem To A Mouse, which equates a field mouse with downtrodden men struggling to survive.

It’s best known for its famous line “the best laid schemes of mice and men go often awry.”

The couple make the rounds of many Central Alberta Robbie Burns Day events where both play bagpipes and Michael passionately recites Burns’ poems.

He started about 15 years ago when at two events, “they didn’t have anyone who knew and appreciated the Address to the Haggis.

“I was brought up in Scotland and you learned poetry. You memorized it and recited it.

“Because I knew a lot of Burns poems and because we know various people,” over the years McLetchie has recited Burns’ poetry at events in Red Deer, Stettler, Rocky Mountain House, Sylvan Lake and Calgary.

He also attends Bowden Grandview School where he and Grade 4 students recite poetry together.

“Some years we’ve done nine or so. Events come and go,” says Marion.

Both have played bagpipes since their teens though as they raised families, the music was often forgotten.

Picking them up again led to their union.

“We were both out of marriages and we both ended up going to the start of the Innisfail (Royal Canadian) Legion pipe band and that’s how we met,” explains Marion, who married Michael a decade ago.

When not a parole officer at Bowden Institution, she’s the band’s pipe major while he’s its business manager and promoter when not a Chinook’s Edge School Division accountant.

“He’s the push and I’m the enabler,” laughs Marion, as Michael adds “we’re a happy little band.”

The band is now raising funds to visit Scotland in August 2014 for the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce’s defeat of the British in the drive for Scottish independence.

The couple make their home north of Innisfail on Antler Hill’s west side where their bagpipe practice room is home to what Michael calls “a few Scottish knicky knackies.”

A myriad of Scotch whiskey tubes and tins, photos, plates and prints and Burns’ books and bric-a-brac stock the room.

Though they both enjoy its ambience, Marion insists “it stays in here. It’s not getting into the rest of the house.”

rfiedler@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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